Welcome to the final Saturday Scorecard of 2007. Before we shovel a path to the big bell and ring in a new year, let's look back at a list of the top local sports stories of 2007, as selected by the staff at Milwaukee's ESPN Radio 1510 Days / 1290 Nights.
We will present the top 10 in reverse order, followed by the honorable mentions:
The Packers name Northwestern athletic director Mark Murphy as CEO and President.
Replacing Bob Harlan in Titletown might be as daunting as taking over for Brett Favre. The Packers chose Murphy, a former Redskins player and NFL players union official, for the job after determining that Harlan's handpicked successor, John Jones, wasn't up to the job. Jones, who had suffered from health problems, received a cash settlement.
Steve Stricker continues his remarkable comeback.
After being named Comeback Player of the Year on the PGA Tour in 2006, Stricker played some of the most inspired golf of his career in '07. He won a tournament early, contended in the four majors and finished second in the FedEx Cup standings to Tiger Woods.
Packers quarterback Brett Favre announces that he will return in 2007.
After watching Favre's teary, post-game interview after a season-ending victory New Year's Eve at Soldier Field, many Packers fans assumed that the icon was going to retire. On the Friday morning before the Super Bowl, Al Jones of the Biloxi newspaper reported that Favre was coming back and Packers nation exhaled.
Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder becomes the youngest player in major-league history to hit 50 homers.
It was a magical season for Fielder, 23, who started for the National League in the All-Star Game, made a run at NL MVP honors (he was third) and carried the Milwaukee offense for much of the season.
Wisconsin basketball team is ranked No. 1 in the AP poll.
Anyone who was stunned when the Badgers won the Rose Bowl in the early 1990s probably had to rub their eyes and say "Holy Cow!" when the Wisconsin hoops team nabbed the top slot for the first time in school history. The Badgers' reign didn't last long; they lost their next two games to Michigan State and No. 2 Ohio State, but it was one of those events (like a Red Sox championship) that many fans never thought they'd see.
The Bucks didn't get help from the ping-pong balls in the NBA Draft lottery and things didn't look brighter when they couldn't even get Chinese forward Yi Jianlian to work out for them. Undaunted by agents and Chinese baseball officials, general manager Larry Harris selected the 19-year-old (or so we think) player and, with help from owner / Sen. Herb Kohl, got Yi to sign a contract. The move has paid dividends on and off the court for the Bucks, who are connecting with fans and sponsors in China while the big kid adjusts quickly to life in the NBA.
Ryan Braun wins NL Rookie of the Year.
During spring training, the Brewers sent Braun to Class AAA Nashville to work on his defense. When the offense needed a boost in late May, they called him up and watched him pulverize opposing pitching. In 113 games, Braun hit .324 with 34 homers and 97 RBI. His defense at third, an adopted position, remains shaky but Braun could end up being one of the more prolific offensive players in franchise history.
The Brewers lead the NL Central for much of the season and finish with a winning record for the first time since 1992.
Because Saturday Scorecard is generally optimistic, we chose the positive headline rather than the alternative "Brewers gag away a season-long division lead and watch Cubs make playoffs." Although picked by many pundits as a pre-season contender, the Brewers had one of the younger lineups in baseball and struggled to overcome an injury to starting pitcher Ben Sheets, struggles by Chris Capuano and Jeff Suppan and a near-complete collapse of the bullpen. Through it all, the team played hard for manager Ned Yost, who was regularly roasted by a core of unhappy fans, many of who called for his dismissal even while the team was in first place. Yost will be back in '08, but expectations will be high and his leash may be short.
Packers win the NFC North Division title, securing a first-round bye and ensuring one home playoff game.
The top two items on this list, as you will see momentarily, are intertwined and virtually interchangeable. But, you have to admit that story was stunning. The Packers were 4-8 after 12 games in Mike McCarthy's rookie season as coach. They won their final four games then their first four of '07. The youngest roster in the NFL showed poise in tight moments and will take a 12-3 record into the finale against Detroit. With a victory over the hapless Lions, the Packers will match the franchise record for victories in a season. Nobody expected that.
Brett Favre's record-breaking season.
Packers fans were pleased when Favre decided not to retire. Nobody expected him to put up the strongest statistics of his career. He's completed a career-best 66.2 percent of his passes. He surpassed 4,000 passing yards for the fifth time. And, he's third in the NFC in touchdown passes. Favre had a few hiccups (like the one in Dallas) and he will undoubtedly lose out to New England's Tom Brady in MVP balloting, but his voyage to the top of the all-time record lists in touchdowns, interceptions and other categories - not to mention his being named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine - made Favre the biggest story of the year.
The Bucks fire head coach Terry Stotts and replace him with assistant coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Former Brookfield Central and UW star tackle Joe Thomas is by the Cleveland Browns with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Following a lackluster stint with Boston, former Cy Young winner Eric Gagne signs a one-year, $10 million deal with the Brewers just days before his name pops up in the Mitchell Report as a user of HGH.
Green Bay pursues a trade for enigmatic receiver Randy Moss, who ends up with New England.
Local football fans are frustrated by squabbles between the NFL Network, the Big Ten Network and major cable companies.
After losing the championship game to Mount Union the previous two years, UW-Whitewater beats its nemesis to win the NCAA Division III football championship.
The Packers draft Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell, using their first-round pick on a player who was injured during his senior season in college and plays a position that many consider to be a strength of the team.
Longtime outfielder Geoff Jenkins completes his run with the Brewers and signs with Philadelphia.
The Wisconsin men's hockey team sees three players chosen in the first round of the NHL Draft.
Brewers closer Francisco Cordero seats a franchise record for saves... then signs a free agent deal with Cincinnati.
A fight breaks out at the Bradley Tech-Bay View boys basketball game.
Top-ranked Wisconsin loses to No. 2 Ohio State in a basketball showdown.
Snowed out at Jacobs Field, the Cleveland Indians play a three-game series against Los Angeles/Anaheim at Miller Park and draw bigger-than-expected crowds.
The Badgers women's hockey program wins a second straight national championship.
Former Packers receiver/broadcaster Max McGee dies after falling from the roof of his Minnesota home.
Badgers beat Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl.
Brewers right-hander Ben Sheets is injured. Again.
Menomonee Falls native Mark Wilson wins the Honda Classic.
The Badgers retire Ron Dayne's number.
Unrest develops amid the UW-Milwaukee basketball program, which loses point guard Avery Smith and leading scorer / rebounder Torre Johnson.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.